Estes - Big Daddy {Kit} (2162) [1998-]

Contributed by Nick Esselman

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Diameter: 3.00 inches
Length: 19.00 inches
Manufacturer: Estes
Skill Level: 2
Style: Sport

In keeping with my likes of "stubby" rockets, I decided to build three more that were around three inches in diameter to compliment my 2.6" and my 4" collection. So, I set off to get a LOC Onyx, a RocketVision Grymm, and the Estes Big Daddy. See my 3" Stubby Rocket Comparison Page

The Estes Big Daddy qualifies as a "stubby" rocket because it is 19" long and has a 3" diameter giving it a less than 10:1 ratio (6.3 to be exact).

Rocket PicThe Big Daddy could be the next step in the Fat Boy family, however, they are very different, especially the longer nose cone.

The Big Daddy includes a 10" long paper glassine coated airframe. It is pre-slotted for the four fins. The plastic nose cone makes up the remaining length. There are four (4) 1/8" thick balsa fins that are die-cut. There are also two (2) 1/16" thick paper centering rings (die-cut). The motor mount is 24mm and 4" in length (2 5/8" is where the motor block is). It includes a standard Estes motor hook. The recovery system consists of a standard 24" plastic parachute and 36" of 1/4" wide elastic. There is an 1/8" launch lug and some decals to complete the kit.


The instructions for the Big Daddy were consistent with the clear step-by-step method that we expect from Estes. No surprises and the illustrations were clear to allow an easy build.

I deviated from the instructions with the recovery system. They gave 36" of shock cord which isn't too bad in light of Estes norm, however, I feel is was still too short and didn't like the attachment method either. I added a 2' piece of 1/8" Kevlar which I tied around the motor mount and through a hole I made in the upper centering ring. I then tied the provided elastic shock cord to that. The directions did deviate from Estes' normal 3-fold method and instructed you to attach it to the upper centering ring which is a nice change, however, I don't like elastic so close and unprotected to the motor mount and ejection path. So by adding the Kevlar I'm sure to extend the life of that attachment and I extend the length of the shock cord at the same time.

Rocket PicAnother technique I tried while building this rocket was on the balsa fins. I tried gluing paper to them, like a laminate, to give them strength and ease the finishing job. The first was accomplished but it did not ease my finishing job. As you can see I used a thin notebook paper. First I put CA all over the fin and spread it out thin, then applied the notebook paper and then CA'd over the top of the paper. On a couple of the fins the paper seems to bubble which left a problem for finishing. I feel this was due to the thickness of the paper and next time I will use tissue paper. The thickness also made the edge more prominent and it actually had to be filled and hit with several coats of primer to finally get it smooth.

You may also notice in the picture the color of the fin fillet. I used a ProBond glue for the initial fillet and then filled over the top with epoxy. I have used this technique several times and really like it. 

For finishing, I didn't use anything to fill the spirals and just started in with several coats of Plasti-Kote Sandable Primer. After many coats on the fins, I finally was able to hide the paper edge and fill in the paper "bubbles" to a "as good as it gets" finish. I then moved on to the painting. The instructions are clear in how to paint the rocket and the nose cone technique is well described. I chose not to paint the nose cone tip and simply painted the entire rocket gloss black using Walmart's paint.

Rocket Pic After the paint dried I applied the peel-n-stick decals. They applied nicely and look great on the black rocket.

Overall, for CONSTRUCTION I would rate this kit 4 points. Instructions are good, components are of good quality and the through-the-wall fins make this a nice building kit. The main detraction is the recovery system.


Download RockSim file here! This file is set up with a modified nose cone weight and a mass object that are used to set the weight equal to my finished rocket (7 ounces) and adjust the CG to 12.5" without motor.

Winter had fallen upon us and it didn't look good to get this bird in the air, however, we planned a vacation to Arizona and it just so happened that there was a launch on 12/23/00. So I packed this rocket and 3 others into a box and shipped them to Arizona. I had to rely on the vendor at the launch for motors and since it was a Tripoli High Power launch, there was not much selection for 24mm motors. I was able to purchase a three-pack of E28-7's which allowed me to fly the Big Daddy™.

RockSim PicI prepped it using a Heat Shield and had swapped out the plastic parachute with an 18" nylon one.

With a picturesque view of mountains in the back and a beautiful Arizonia day, I put the Big Daddy™ up for her maiden voyage. The E28 popped it off the pad and it was straight and stable. It was still traveling up when the ejection charge went off but deployed fine. Descent rate was good and there was no damage upon impact. All-in-all a nice flight.

For FLIGHT/RECOVERY, I would rate this kit 4½ points. This is only based off of one flight, however, as I am not the first one writing a review on the Big Daddy™ and by looking at the flight logs I think everyone would agree that this is a good flier. Others have also changed the recovery system. I will fly it again in the spring.

Overall, the Big Daddy is another very nice "stubby" rocket. After the enhancement of the recovery system and strengthening the fins, I expect to get a lot of flights out of this one. Estes only recommends their D12 motor, however, this one is begging for Apogee (E6's) and Aerotech D-F motors. The only problem for the Apogee motor is the length so use caution with your center of gravity. I give the kit an OVERALL rating of 4½ points.

Other Reviews
  • Estes - Big Daddy {Kit} (2162) [1998-] By Dave Brunsting (January 28, 2007)

    This project was an upgrade of the typical Big Daddy to a 29mm mount with fiberglass reinforcement to the fins and lots of nose weight with a funky flame job. Modifications: This is an old style Big Daddy I ran across for $15 which sure beats the heck out of the regular retail price of ~$30 or whatever it is. So first up is the MMT. I used 30 minute epoxy because that’s what I ...

  • Estes - Big Daddy {Kit} (2162) [1998-] By Jim Stuckman

    19" LG X 3" Dia 24" Parachute 24mm Motor Mount - D12-3 & 5 recommended This is a great sport flyer that builds very quickly. If you upgrade the parachute to a quality nylon chute you have a very versatile companion for your Aerotech 24mm RMS! 4 My kit is a pre-release beta kit so it did not come in the standard Estes packaging - just a basic plastic bag. All parts were present ...

  • Estes - Big Daddy {Kit} (2162) [1998-] By Jon Revelle

    Short, stubby, and fun rocket. Flies on Estes D engines. Unfortunately I think it was just discontinued because it was not in Estes' 2005 Catalog. The rocket made its debut in the mid 1990s. At the time, kits were being made with a 4/6 sided box with a bag. This one was no exception. It had: 1 Nose Cone 1 Fat body tube 1 24mm Motor tube 1 Sheet of balsa 2 Centering rings ...

  • Estes - Big Daddy {Kit} (2162) [1998-] By Andy Tate

    single stage, 24in. parachute, 24mm motor mount, 3/16 launch lug This is a standard Estes kit. It utilizes TTT (through the tube) fin mounting for the four balsa fins. One three inch paper tube is the body tube with a 24mm paper tube for the motor mount. The nosecone is a large plastic one with the standard Estes shock cord attachment loop. Two cardstock centering rings are included. The ...



T.T. (July 1, 1999)
I agree that the Big Daddy is an above average kit. I upped its fun factor by installing a 29mm LOC stuffer tube with plywood centering rings, a heavy duty shock cord mount, 30" Top Flite nylon chute, and glassed the entire airframe before painting. About 5 oz of clay and epoxy in the nose was needed for stability. With an F62 Dark Star or G35 Econojet, it will get off the pad in a hurry for arrow-straight flights to about 2000'. I'm tickled with the conversion, and it is a real crowd pleaser.
R.T. (November 1, 1999)
I have put the Big Daddy up five times. The motors were: 2 D12's, 2 E30's, and one F12. The first D had a recovery failure, the upper centering ring got pulled out due to the use of some terrible Radio Shack glue. After epoxy was used to improve the rocket (including taking out the motor clip and beefing the thing up), I started pushing the rocket. The E-30 gives a nice fast flight, and the F12 gives a nice soft contrast to my typical G125/F101 flights. The rocket is very solid, It could probably take an F72 (in terms of strength if not stability).
E.P. (April 1, 2000)
This is my best rocket. It is very sturdy and has withstood several hard flights. The only modifications I would make is to get some Nomex® permanent wadding because this rocket takes like 10-11 sheets of wadding and half the time the shoot melts anyway. This is a great rocket and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a long-lasting rocket.
G.B. (April 1, 2001)
Maybe it's just me, but I love stubby fellas like the Big Daddy and Fat Boy. I thoroughly enjoyed building the Daddy, with my only complaint being the fin slots were longer than they needed to be. But that's a minor complaint. I made two modifications: I used braided steel picture-hanging wire run through a hole in the forward engine ring and wrapped around (and glued to) the engine tube to protect the shock cord from ejection heat. The wire extends to the top of the tube, where the shock cord is then tied. I also cut the Estes logo out of the 'chute, and thought the descent rate was about right when flown on the D. I had a bit of wind and was afraid she'd drift away. Great flight, flawless recovery. A real nice flyer.
B.E. (May 1, 2001)
I thought this would be a good candidate to fly on a small field since the box claims 350' flights on the D engine. WOW! Was that ever wildly pessimistic! This thing went almost twice that before landing on the roof of a house that borders our launch field. (The field has since been renamed "B6-4 Field".) Luckily the houses owner was in as big a hurry to get the rocket off of his roof as I was. He wouldn't even let me clean his gutters for him as payment for use of his ladder. Bottom line: Make sure you have ample space on your chosen field and DON'T believe everything you read on Estes packages.
D.B.Jr. (June 1, 2001)
I highly agree with the above comment. I bought the kit when it first came out. The projected altitude of 350 feet caught my eye too. I thought about flying it on a high school field. I was getting desperate and wanted to see it fly but held off the get-go fever. The next summer I was granted permission to launch from a giant hay field. Boy am I glad I waited. The projected altitude of 350 feet looked about right but because of the large parachute this thing must of drifted at least a 1/4 mile. I recently replaced the 24 inch chute with an 18 inch one but haven't tried it out yet. Excellent rocket, highly recommended A++++.
D.C. (June 1, 2001)
I really like this rocket. The review is very accurate. Estes really had a winner with this kit. I have about 6 flights on mine so far. It is built like a tank. I launched it in high winds one time and it curved into the ground while the motor was still burning but no damage. I love this rocket so much that I'm going to buy 2 more. One of which I plan to cluster on 4 C motors I give this kit a 6 on a scale of 1 to 5. I highly recommend it to anybody. It is super easy and fun to build and fly. I was my third rocket. By the way it also flies well on single C motors.
D.B.Jr. (June 1, 2001)
I would like to update my previous comment. Recently I launched my Big Daddy with the smaller 18 inch chute. It came down a little faster than I would of liked. Because of the tall grass at my field no damage resulted. If anyone makes a 20 inch chute, this would probably be the way to go.
T.J.C. (September 17, 2001)
This is a fun rocket. My son and I built it stone stock and finished like the photo. Using D-12 motors the Big Daddy takes off slow, almost too slow as it was substantially above the launch rod before aerodynamic stability was apparent. We also cut a spill hole in the center of the chute to cut drift and soon had it landing within a few feet of the launch pad. Flight number seven was the Big Daddy's unlucky one. A slow lift off combined with a slight tendency to fly into the wind (over stability?)put the Big Daddy into a low drift which ended in the top of a 60 foot maple tree 150 yards down range. Several weeks later the cheap Estes shock cord broke in a wind and the Daddy returned to earth minus the nose cone and chute. Even though having hung in a tree for weeks it was in surprisingly good shape and will soon fly again. I plan to try a 6 foot launch rod this time to give the Daddy a little more time to stabilize at lift off.
P.T. (October 2, 2001)
The Big Daddy was my third rocket. The other two being E2X kits it was quite a jump to explorer kits. I was very impressed with the first flight on a D12-3. Straight up 350'. However the second flight was not so successful. I counted to 5 for the delay on the D12-5. But the ejection never happened. It came down like a shell and made a huge thud as it burried itself into the grass. The nose cone was squashed inside the body tube. At first I thought the motor mount had fallen out, but then I realized it was at the top of the rocket. When I finally got it apart I could see the motor mount tube had ripped itself free of the two centering rings. The tube was crimped, the nose cone dirty and the parachute melted together. Amazingly I fixed it, and flew it again on a D12-3, the flight was perfect. A few weeks later I flew it again on a D12-5. Guess what, it nose dived again! I think I might be able to fix it again, but I might just get a new one! Great first D rocket though, and I'm sure it could take E and F motors too.
M.V.L. (October 19, 2001)
This is a great rocket kit, especially for those just getting into bigger diameters/engines. Very sturdy and stable. One suggestion I would make is to turn the "yellow spacer tube" supplied in the kit into an ejection baffle. I used the extra balsa wood from the fins to make a plug for the tube, cut holes all around the top inch of the tube, then glued it into the top of the motor mount, resting on the thrust ring. Works like a charm, and doesn't go through 30 pieces of wadding per launch.
C.V.H. (November 19, 2001)
I did this rocket after I got it as a factory reject. The fins were missing but I got the pattern from a friend and I put it together stock except I added another 24mm mount and used 1/4 nylon for the shock cord. First flight was on 2 D12-5's. It was a perfect flight and it came down on a 24'' nylon chute. Next I will try 2 E9's or reloadable E11's. Hmmm, I wonder what 2 F39's will do. :)
T.W. (June 3, 2008)
Save yourself about thirty bucks and DON'T BUY THIS KIT! The balsa fins are flimsy and prone to breakage (thru-the-wall construction can only help so much). The shock cord and mounting is outdated. And the plastic parachute is cheap and ugly. I was told that the legendary Matt "The Man Of" Steele designed the original Big Daddy for Estes. But I find it hard to believe that the man who spearheaded North Coast Rocketry could've had ANYTHING to do with a bungholeo of a kit like this.
A.H. (June 7, 2008)
The Big Daddy has enough appeal by now to be considered an Estes classic. I papered the fins on one of mine and regularly fly it on G motors. I found the parts in 3 kits so far, to be quality materials.
Steve Lindeman (February 14, 2015)

This is an absolute must have kit. I have bought and built 3 kits so far and this is my goto rocket at launches. Kit #1 was lost in a tree:( Kit #2 was soon built to replace it and kit #3 was lengthened 30" and modified for 3 - 24mm motors (3D MD).

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